Irish Water has been having a hard time recently with adverse comments by mischief makers and also those with genuine concerns.
Of course all rational, normal people know that the water that falls from the sky is free, but to capture it, treat it and distribute it costs money. So why does the idea that this cost should be passed onto the consumers caused so much dissent. The same issues were not raised for electricity or natural gas.
The answer probably lies in the fact that we, the consumers, were already paying for the water through general taxation. That this is so is obvious with a little clear thinking. Before the various water undertakings were absorbed into Irish Water, the local authorities were paying for costs of supplying water and block grants from central government, property tax, etc. funded this. And the government got this money through taxation. If the government had made a clear statement to the effect that, ‘yes we accept that you were already paying for water indirectly, but now will be paying directly though your water meters, and in recognition of this we will adjust indirect taxes to compensate you for this’, then there is much more likelihood of water meters this being accepted. Such a statement would have disarmed many of the critics. Of course, there will be always those who desire to create mischief and we still hear protesters on radio interviews restating the line about rainfall being free. I suspect that they really know that this line of reasoning is faulty but are more concerned with gaining a following of supporters for other political ends.
The real failure of the government was the failure to admit that consumers would be double charged and to propose a compensating reduction in taxes. If the argument was that the government could not afford to reduce indirect taxes to compensate for water charges, then this indeed was a stealth tax.
For myself, I am fully in favour of water meters and accept the need to pay for the management of a scarce resource. However, the way the scheme has been implemented and the failure of Irish Water or the government to effectively win the counter arguments makes it difficult for many supporters of water meters to fully support Irish Water or the government.